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Hospitality is a fast-moving industry and businesses in it need to be as fast and efficient as possible to be successful and printers are playing an increasingly significant role in achieving this, which means there are plenty of opportunities for resellers in this market.
In the hospitality sector, smooth and efficient operations are key. At busy service times, staff and their equipment need to be working in harmony to stop waiting times building up and delivering a positive experience for the customer.
Increasingly, printers are playing a crucial role in helping to improve services. “This means fast print speeds are a must, as are design innovations that improve frontline worker productivity, such as reducing media roll or ribbon changes,” says Richard Barfield, product marketing manager, Core Portfolio Printers, Printing Supplies and Environmental Sensors, EMEA, Zebra Technologies.
“Minimising downtime helps reduce wait times, so you need reliable and durable printers, capable of dealing with high-volume use and able to take the knocks and drops but keep working through a full shift,” he adds. “Simplicity of maintenance should not be overlooked. Printers with easy-to-replace consumables, user-friendly maintenance processes, toolless swap out of serviceable parts, and on-display wizards and walkthroughs can save time, effort and training for the staff.
“Connectivity is key. Not just from the mechanical perspective. Yes, your printer should have all the relevant options for getting connected to your network, such as USB, ethernet, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. But better communications facilitate greater contributions.”
Jurgen Stephan, senior director of global marketing for Honeywell Productivity Solutions and Services, adds that on-demand printing from anywhere is also important. “Printers should be capable of printing swiftly whenever and wherever required,” he says.
In addition to reliability and speed, printers should enhance the overall customer experience rather than being a distraction, he adds. “To achieve these goals, three key aspects – print speed, print quality and reliable operation – are crucial. Additionally, the hospitality sector often faces high employee turnover rates. Therefore, it is vital to be able to manage printers with an intuitive user interface that provide clear feedback on printer status and operation. This makes it easier for new employees to use the printers effectively.”
He adds that to improve user-friendliness, printers should offer:
- Intuitive operation: The printer interface should be easy to understand and use
- Easy maintenance: Simplified maintenance procedures help keep the printers in good working condition
- Clear user feedback: Using LCD displays, icons and/or LED indicators to provide clear status updates to the user is crucial for better interaction.
While those are core customer demands for what they want in a printer, hospitality businesses’ requirements for what they want their printers to do is changing.
“Label customisation and flexibility are increasingly important for the hospitality sector,” says Jurgen. “Printers must be capable of accommodating various label sizes and fonts, and they should have adaptive labeling capabilities to support customer-specific labels. These features play a critical role in hospitality workflows.
“Moreover, the popularity of cloud-based printing is on the rise. This technology allows label and printer configurations to be stored in the cloud and accessed as needed. It enables remote printer management and the initiation of printing from any connected device, such as smartphones and tablets. Customers are embracing these capabilities, as they enhance user-friendliness, reduce the time required for new employee onboarding and increase the printing process’s adaptability to different workflows.
“Furthermore, improved cybersecurity and data protection is rising in importance in the printing industry. Both printers and cloud-based communication are being better safeguarded from cyberattacks and data security breaches. This ensures that sensitive information remains secure and confidential.”
Richard adds that mobility continues to grow in importance. “As mobile computing and tablet use grows, the need for mobile print follows,” he says. “For example, the ability for hospitality associates to use technology to queue bust can really help to ramp efficiency and customer satisfaction. And mobility pulls with it cloud-based printing, which facilitates seamless integration between different devices and locations, making it easier for hotel chains and multi-location establishments to centralise their printing processes.”
An area that is gaining more widespread use is the trend for self-service, he adds. “We have customers who are deploying kiosks to facilitate check-in, check-out, manage returns and place orders independently, while featuring built-in Zebra printers to provide receipts, room keys, or order confirmations for a smoother and more efficient guest experience.”
Getting into the market
With the trends in the market indicative of the opportunities that are available for resellers, there has never been a better time to get involved in the sector.
Jay Kim, managing director of BIXOLON Europe GmbH, says that for a reseller looking to sell to the hospitality market there are normally two routes to market. “They can either develop their own hospitality software and add third party peripheral hardware, or work with a software house to bundle together hospitality software with high quality peripherals such as a printer, cash drawer and screen,” he says. “As technology within the hospitality market is always evolving, it is beneficial to keep a hand on the pulse by continually speaking to customers and gaining an awareness of market innovations to maintain a portfolio of solutions for changing market requirements.”
Richard adds that partnering with a technology vendor such as Zebra is a good starting point for a reseller. Technology vendors often have channel partner programmes that enable resellers to help their customers.
But he does caution that sales cycles in the sector can be lengthy. “Resellers need to be patient and persistent in building relationships and closing deals – but again, a channel programme can be a great support,” he says.
“Service must be prompt and responsive. At Zebra we have comprehensive visibility and management tools, providing essential insight to aid efficient decision making, all backed up with maintenance plans to protect against failures and prevent frustrations.”
Richard adds that some of the most challenging barriers are with compliance and regulations. “Everything from data protection, health and safety and food handling, resellers solutions must meet industry standards.
“Focusing on food, there are EU regulations on food allergens labelling. In our own canteens at Zebra we use our own food safe inks and cards, printed using our card printers, to display ingredient and allergen information safely and clearly.”
Natasha’s Law, which covers food labelling for prepacked foods in the UK, is also an important consideration for those in the hospitality industry. “Labelling technology has become vital for many hospitality businesses that sell prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) food to stay compliant, since the introduction of food safety regulation Natasha’s Law in 2021,” says Ged Cairns, head of Auto-ID at Brother UK.
“This has translated into strong sales for resellers since the law came into force, equipping kitchens with labelling kit that integrates with food management systems that make it easy to comply with new the rules on clear and detailed allergen labelling. And technology partners will continue to play a key role advising the sector as it continues to adapt.
“But two years on, hospitality firms still need support to improve their labelling and make compliance a simpler, more cost-effective task. A 2023 study of 116 PPDS labels by Erudus found that 54% of the products sampled failed to accurately declare the presence of allergen ingredients, with messy handwriting also a big reason for labels not complying with Natasha’s Law.
“Many smaller operators continue to use handwritten labels too, which the research found is a big reason for labels not complying with Natasha’s Law, and it’s also costing them time. One chef told us how he’s saving half an hour each day by using a label printer instead, which makes a huge difference on a busy shift.
“For larger operators, integrating food labelling with a menu management system is a solution better suited when implementing efficiencies across multiple sites. The Brother system, for example, combines a TD thermal printer with a unique, integrated tablet holder and third-party software, accessed through a tablet, creating a standalone wireless solution that can be used anywhere on a site to create, edit and print labels. Our printers are compatible with a variety of menu management solutions including Food Alert, Nutritics, Planglow, Marka, MyDill Food Management Systems and many more.
“Natasha’s Law compliance and general allergen and food sensitivity labelling is an area where resellers can create significant value for customers. But conversations on labelling technology could also open doors to discussing customers’ broader print requirements. That could be a managed print service contract for printing across head office and multiple sites. Or, whether devices like our new print & cut A4 inkjet, with an in-built guillotine for automatic A5 printing, could be a perfect solution for producing menus or in house POS banners.”
As Ged says, there are many conversations that resellers should be having with existing/potential customers in the hospitality sector about their printers.
“Resellers need to be engaging in meaningful conversations,” says Richard. “It’s no longer enough to simply fulfil a need for a new printer, one that prints a bit faster than the old one. You really need to work with customers to not only understand their specific needs but delve deeper to help them solve their challenges. Often, customers don’t know they have a problem, until you understand their business and processes enough to match either an existing solution, or sometimes even a new innovative one, to a particular customers business case. In doing so, you become that customers best partner, by growing their business and making them more efficient.”
He adds that resellers should also be having conversations around operational needs – assessing their current printing infrastructure and pain points. “Think of efficiency and cost savings – staying with incumbent technology can be a false economy, so illustrate the benefits by upgrading to smarter devices. Likewise with integration and compatibility – solutions such as Print DNA Emulations can make drop-in of Zebra printer seamless to back-end systems.
“But resellers should also be adding value with deeper conversations in areas of security and compliance, as well as service and support. These areas can be critical in helping to protect an organisations reputation.
“A comprehensive conversation would also consider scalability and future growth. Understand if your customer has plans for either of these and discuss scalable solutions that can handle increasing printing demands as their business expands.”
Mark Lloyd, sales director, Star Micronics EMEA, adds that resellers need to consider the location and application of the printer when talking to customers. “In terms of location, the printer can be affected by kitchen equipment such as microwaves which can interfere with WiFi connectivity,” he says.
“If the printer is in a bar or kitchen, it may need a splashproof cover or a printer with a certified IPX2 rating may be required. In certain kitchens, a dot matrix printer may be more suitable than a thermal printer and the printer may need to be wall mounted. In terms of application, the printer may need to receive orders and print orders from multiple devices as in the case of online and/or table ordering.”
Sustainability is another issue that resellers should be talking about with customers, Mark adds. “Sustainability is, and will always be, a concern and Star has tools to offer margin reduction to 2mm to reduce paper consumption and we’ve certified some of our latest printers with recyclable papers,” he says.
“We have reduced power consumption per print job and when the printer is idle. We also ensure our printers are as versatile as possible, saving the customer money and making the business more sustainable by replacing two or three printers with one printer receiving information from multiple sources. Star’s newest label printer, mC-Label, can print repositionable as well as permanent linerless labels, providing a more sustainable solution with no backing paper.”
Jay adds that there are three areas resellers should focus on to help customers to find the right product for their needs: purpose, performance and connectivity. “Resellers need to find out the needs of their customer, as there is no one-size-fits-all with hospitality printing,” he says. “They may require a mixed estate of kitchen, bar, mobile, kiosk and even label printers that either work independently, or as part of a centralised setup.
“Likewise with performance – does the customer need high volume, high-quality printing or to print in a certain environment? As this may affect whether they require an impact printer, thermal printer or mobility printer.
“Finally, with many connectivity options available, research needs to be made into a customer’s existing setup and adapt accordingly. Resellers also need to consider the appearance and practicality of the printers, and consider whether they will be on show to customers? If so, they will need to consider minimising cabling and ensure that the POS area is pleasant and uncluttered.”
There are likely to be increasing opportunities in the hospitality sector in the future as it continues to evolve, and retailers battle against things like rising prices and minimising wastage. “With the cost of raw ingredients rising at the fastest rate in decades and supply chain shortages continuing to create challenges for restaurant kitchens, staff are under enormous pressure to minimise food wastage,” says Jay. “Staff shortages can also cause problems. A lack of experience combined with staff working different shifts can make it hard to keep track of product usage, leading to unnecessary wastage of fresh items.
“Using integrated tablet printers in tandem with a food labelling solution enables kitchen staff to easily keep track of items such as freshly created salads or newly opened jars. In addition to avoiding waste, an effective labelling solution improves stock rotation while also supporting the allergy reporting that is key to comply with legislation such as Natasha’s Law.
“Lastly, as sustainability concerns continue to grow, technologies such as linerless labelling continue to increase in popularity for applications such as coffee shops and in fast food outlets. Linerless labelling also removes the need for silicon backing paper, which reduces the volume of waste from printing while offering different adhesive strengths depending on if a label needs to be fixed or removable.”